Skip to main content

Washington DC - - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized a package of new pollution standards for power plants that will significantly reduce water, air and climate pollution. As part of this package, EPA finalized stringent Clean Water Act standards to limits toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plants.  “We applaud the Biden Administration and EPA for responding to public comments and strengthening the original proposal so that new Clean Water Act standards will prevent more toxic water pollution and protect more drinking water sources,” said Clean Water Action President Jeff Carter.  

Clean Water Action and its hundreds of thousands of members across the country have  advocated for over a decade for EPA to require coal-fired power plants to control their water pollution using the best available treatment technologies and to give heightened consideration to drinking water impacts. Coal-fired plants have been dumping millions of pounds of toxic metals, nutrients, chlorides, bromide, and other harmful pollutants into water every year for decades. Even trace amounts of many of these pollutants can cause public health risks in drinking water, harm aquatic life and damage ecosystems.  

EPA estimates that 42 million people rely on drinking water sources likely contaminated with coal plant wastewater. Many pollutants in this wastewater are of particular concern in drinking water. For example, bromide and other halogens pose particular challenges for drinking water systems, because bromide in treated water can result in the formation of carcinogenic disinfection byproducts. The “zero-discharge” requirements announced today for three types of coal-fired plant wastewater will eliminate most of the bromide, iodine and other halogens being discharged by these plants, lowering public health risks and costs for drinking water systems and their customers.  

EPA has also found that based coal plant wastewater discharges have a disproportionate impact on communities with environmental justice concerns. More stringent requirements around toxic water pollution from coal-fired power plants will particularly benefit people who live near these, plants, consume fish from waterbodies downstream from pollution discharges, or rely on drinking water from downstream sources.  

Today’s announcement reverses the Trump administration's controversial weakening of these water pollution standards. The Clean Water Act Supplemental Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category finalized today reverse the Trump administration's controversial weakening of these water pollution standards. EPA’s finalized rule requires coal-fired power plants to upgrade wastewater treatment technology to achieve zero discharge of pollutants from bottom ash transport wastewater and flue gas desulfurization (FGD) scrubber sludge. In addition, EPA made notable improvements to the March 2023 proposed rule. The finalized rule requires coal-fired plants to achieve zero discharge of pollutants from leachate, as Clean Water Action argued during the comment period was both technically feasible and necessary to protect public health and water quality. EPA also announced stricter limits for legacy wastewater stored in coal ash ponds and for leachate discharged into groundwater

Today, EPA also finalized the Legacy Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Surface Impoundments and CCR Management Units, which extends federal requirements to monitor, close, and clean up hundreds of older landfills, legacy ponds, and fill sites that were previously excluded from federal regulations. These sites have contaminated groundwater across the country with heavy metals and other harmful pollutants. The finalized rule closes loopholes that have allowed coal fired power plants to avoid cleaning up their toxic coal ash. This is a significant step forward in cleaning up toxic coal ash sites across the country. Clean Water Action will continue to push for the immediate enforcement of this rule, the safe closure and cleanup of all coal ash dumps, and stronger protections for groundwater and drinking water supplies.  

In addition to improved Clean Water Act water pollution standards for coal-fired plants and the cleanup of legacy coal ash sites, EPA also announced new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and new carbon pollution standards for fossil fuel-fired power plants. Together, this package of four safeguards will significantly reduce carbon, coal ash, mercury, wastewater and other toxic pollution from power plants.  


Clean Water Action is a national 501(c)(4) environmental organization with nearly one million members nationwide. Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. Learn more at 

Press Contacts
LaTrice V. Harrison